President Marcos Jr.’s Commitment to Tuition-Free College Education

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Commits to Free College Education Program

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines recently reaffirmed his administration’s dedication to upholding the government’s free college education program. Speaking at the National Higher Education Day Summit in Pasay City, President Marcos emphasized that the allocation of nearly P134 billion for state and local universities and colleges this year demonstrates the government’s commitment to providing free tertiary education to a larger number of students. He stressed that this initiative aims to alleviate the financial burden on families and underscored the significance of investing in the country’s future through education.

The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Republic Act 10931)

The free college education program, also known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act or Republic Act 10931, is designed to promote universal access to quality tertiary education in the Philippines. This legislation ensures the provision of free tuition and other school fees in state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges (LUCs), and state-run technical-vocational institutions (TVIs). Additionally, it establishes the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) and student loan program, while reinforcing the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education.

Under Republic Act 10931, Filipino students enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs at SUCs and LUCs are exempted from paying tuition and other school fees. The TES, a government grant-in-aid program, supports the tertiary education costs of Filipino students pursuing their first undergraduate-post-secondary program in SUCs, LUCs, private higher education institutions, and TVIs.

Government Allocation and Academic Standards

The commitment to free tertiary education is evident in the substantial allocation of P27.2 billion for the free higher education program, which covers tuition and other school fees for students in state universities and colleges as well as Commission on Higher Education (CHED)-recognized local universities and colleges. In the broader context, the education sector received a total allocation of P924.7 billion for the year, equivalent to 16 percent of the 2024 budget plan amounting to P5.768 trillion.

President Marcos emphasized that while democratizing access to education is crucial, it should not compromise academic standards. He underscored the importance of maintaining unwavering scholastic benchmarks, resistant to external pressures that may jeopardize the quality of education. President Marcos emphasized the necessity of upholding high standards across the education system to ensure success in a rapidly evolving world.

Investing in the Future: Marcos Administration’s Commitment to Education

The Marcos administration’s emphasis on the free college education program underscores its broader commitment to investing in the country’s future through strategic investments in education. In his speech, President Marcos stated that the government’s expenditure on education should be viewed as an investment, rather than just an expense, as it directly contributes to the development and empowerment of the Filipino people and the nation as a whole.

This sentiment aligns with the administration’s overall approach to governance, which aims to address long-standing challenges and lay the foundation for sustainable progress. By ensuring access to quality tertiary education, the government is taking a proactive step in equipping the youth with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly globalized and rapidly evolving world.

Balancing Access and Academic Standards

While the free college education program focuses on democratizing access to higher learning, President Marcos emphasized the importance of maintaining high academic standards. He cautioned against the temptation to lower benchmarks in an effort to improve enrolment numbers, stating that scholastic yardsticks must be regarded as firm and resistant to pressures that could undermine the quality of education.

This stance reflects the administration’s recognition that access to education is not the sole measure of success. Equally important is the quality of the education provided, which must equip students with the critical thinking abilities, practical skills, and innovative mindset required to contribute meaningfully to the country’s development.

By striking a balance between expanding access and upholding academic rigor, the Marcos administration aims to create a higher education system that not only offers opportunities to a wider segment of the population but also produces graduates who are well-equipped to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

Bolstering the Education Sector’s Budget

The government’s commitment to the free college education program is further reflected in the allocation of significant resources to the education sector. In the 2024 national budget plan, the education sector was allocated a total of P924.7 billion, equivalent to 16% of the P5.768 trillion budget.

Within this allocation, P27.2 billion has been earmarked specifically for the free higher education program, covering the tuition and other school fees of students enrolled in state universities and colleges, as well as Commission on Higher Education (CHED)-recognized local universities and colleges.

This robust funding demonstrates the administration’s recognition of the pivotal role that education plays in driving the country’s social and economic progress. By investing heavily in the education sector, the government is laying the groundwork for a more educated and skilled workforce, which is essential for sustaining long-term growth and development.

Expanding Access to Technical-Vocational Education

Alongside the focus on free college education, the Marcos administration has also emphasized the importance of technical-vocational education (TVE) as a means of empowering individuals and meeting the evolving demands of the labor market.

The free tuition and other school fees provisions of Republic Act 10931 extend to state-run technical-vocational institutions (TVIs), ensuring that students pursuing technical and vocational programs can also benefit from the government’s education support initiatives.

This approach recognizes the value of diverse educational pathways and the critical role that technical and vocational skills play in driving economic growth and social mobility. By making TVE more accessible, the government aims to equip individuals with practical, in-demand skills that can enhance their employability and contribute to the country’s overall competitiveness.

Addressing Regional Disparities in Education

One of the key challenges faced by the Philippine education system is the persistent regional disparities in access and quality. Certain areas of the country, particularly rural and remote regions, have historically struggled with inadequate infrastructure, limited resources, and a shortage of qualified teachers, all of which have hindered the delivery of quality education.

The Marcos administration has recognized this issue and is working to address these regional imbalances through targeted interventions. This includes initiatives to improve the physical infrastructure of schools, invest in teacher training and development programs, and ensure the equitable distribution of educational resources across different regions.

By addressing these regional disparities, the government aims to create a more inclusive and accessible education system that provides equal opportunities for students, regardless of their geographic location. This is a crucial step in fostering national unity and promoting balanced socioeconomic development across the Philippines.

Strengthening Partnerships and Collaborations

To further enhance the effectiveness of its education initiatives, the Marcos administration has emphasized the importance of strengthening partnerships and collaborations with various stakeholders, including private sector entities, civil society organizations, and international development partners.

By fostering these collaborative relationships, the government seeks to leverage diverse expertise, resources, and innovative approaches to tackle the multifaceted challenges facing the education sector. This includes exploring opportunities for public-private partnerships, seeking international funding and technical assistance, and engaging with local communities to better understand and address their unique educational needs.

Through these collaborative efforts, the administration aims to create a more holistic and responsive education ecosystem that can adapt to the rapidly changing demands of the 21st century and equip Filipino students with the necessary tools to thrive in the global marketplace.

Embracing Technology and Innovation in Education

In the rapidly evolving digital age, the Marcos administration recognizes the crucial role that technology and innovation play in transforming the education landscape. The government has taken steps to integrate digital technologies, such as online learning platforms, interactive educational resources, and data-driven analytics, into the country’s education system.

This approach not only enhances the overall quality and accessibility of education but also prepares students to navigate the increasingly technology-driven world. By embracing innovative pedagogical methods and leveraging the power of digital tools, the administration aims to foster a culture of lifelong learning, critical thinking, and adaptability among Filipino students.

Furthermore, the government is exploring opportunities to collaborate with the private sector and academic institutions to drive research, development, and the commercialization of educational technologies. This cross-sector collaboration is expected to spur innovations that can further revolutionize the way education is delivered and experienced in the Philippines.

Conclusion: Investing in the Future, Empowering the Nation

The Marcos administration’s steadfast commitment to the free college education program and its broader investments in the education sector reflect a strategic vision for the country’s future. By ensuring universal access to quality tertiary education, the government is not only easing the financial burden on families but also empowering the youth to become active contributors to the nation’s development.

Moreover, the administration’s emphasis on balancing accessibility and academic rigor, as well as its efforts to address regional disparities, strengthen partnerships, and embrace technological innovation, underscores its holistic approach to transforming the education landscape.

As the Philippines navigates the challenges of the 21st century, the Marcos administration’s unwavering dedication to education stands as a testament to its belief that investing in the country’s human capital is the surest path to sustainable growth, social progress, and national prosperity. Through these strategic investments, the government is paving the way for a future where every Filipino has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to the collective advancement of the nation.

Source: The Manila Times

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